Two Parenting Stories From the Country That Used to Be America

Hardened Criminal #1: Stay-at-home suburban mom lets kids ride scooters on her cul-de-sac. Pain-in-the-ass neighbor calls to complain. Idiot cops fail to tell neighbor to get bent, and instead arrest the mother for child endangerment: overnight in jail, orange jumpsuit, 18 hours behind bars and all.

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Hardened Criminal #2: Working, lower-income mom gets daughter a laptop so the daughter has something to do while she waits in McDonald’s for mom to finish her shift. Laptop gets stolen. Daughter asks if she can play in a nearby park with fresh air and cool water rather than soaking up the atmosphere in the nation’s primary fat factory. Mom gets daughter a cell phone so she can check on her and then let’s her go play. Mom is arrested for child endangerment and daughter is given to social services. Watch the video here and read the story here.

My entire childhood is now illegal. My parents, and the parents of most kids raised in the 1970s, would be put in jail today.

You know, it’s not that we didn’t have cranky neighbors in the 1970s who would call the cops on playing kids. It’s that the cops were not stupid enough to respond, or if they did, it was just to say “Move along down the street so you stop bothering the crazy lady and I can get back to my donuts.” The idea of a parent being cuffed, stuffed, booked, printed, charged, and held would have be incomprehensible. Neighbors would have shown up at the police station to yell at cops. No one would have thought this was a proper application of force.

When I was growing up we had an old lady in my neighborhood who freaked  if a foot touched her lawn. It’s just that no one paid any attention to her. (She was totally bonkers, screaming in German and running out her door as though she sat at the window watching and waiting. Did we torment her by deliberately stepping off the sidewalk and onto her lawn?, we were once asked by a parent. The question offended me. Of course we did.)

What happened to us?

About Thomas L. McDonald

Thomas L. McDonald writes about technology, theology, history, games, and shiny things. Details of his rather uneventful life as a professional writer and magazine editor can be found in the About tab.

  • Michael Williams

    Sad state of affairs when government gets involved in parenting. Apparently as a father I have been a menace to my children’s development by not bubble-wrapping them and tethering them so that they couldn’t get hurt or wander too far from my side. Yikes!

  • Allison Grace

    We all knew whose lawn we could cut across to get to the park (that we, too, would spend HOURS at) and who would scream French at us (I’m 45). Everyone’s a mandated reporter now and everyone assumes the very worst of parents (especially social workers or ER staff or teachers); like, we can’t possibly raise our kids without “professional” help. So frightful.

  • TapestryGarden

    What happened is that the government has taken the place of parents. With more Americans on benefits, single mothers, government provided healthcare, childcare, along with schools, Uncle Sam has become Big Brother. It is utterly ridiculous. At age six I walked by myself to school, several blocks away. We walked to the park, also several blocks from home and this was long before cell phones. We would run out the door after making ourselves a bowl of cereal and not return until lunchtime after which we’d disappear on bikes or on foot and not return until dark. What has happened to us is right!

  • Jared B.

    I think it’s a sign of a society that has contempt for children and childhood itself, that parents are expected to keep their kids on ever shorter leashes. “Child endangerment” is just a thin excuse.


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